Covering 145 square miles, The New Forest is the jewel in Hampshire's crown. A true gem packed with wildlife, attractions and activities the whole family will enjoy. From quaint hamlets and historic towns to explore, to the famous ponies roaming the wide open heaths and ancient forest to explore by foot, road or bike, there is truly something for everyone. And there's no better way of exploring its many charms than in a gentle meander in a VW Camper Van!
Here is a suggested 4-day itinerary to help you sample some of the highlights and experience the stunning beauty of this incredible landscape:
OK. You've picked up your gorgeous Camper Van and crammed it full with gear for every conceivable weather (this is England, after all!). You'll want a nice, easy first afternoon getting to know the quirks of your Camper Van and generally settling into the holiday spirit.
We suggest you head straight out of town onto the A35 towards Brockenhurst - right at the heart of the New Forest National Park. You will pass through the delightful village of Lyndhurst - often referred to as the 'Capital' of the New Forest. With its wide range of shops, cosy tea rooms, old world pubs, cafes and restaurants - its the perfect starting point to stock up on essentials and grab a bite to eat. It's also home to the New Forest Visitor centre with museum, gallery, information and shop, it's a great place to get some more information for your New Forest adventure.
After this splendid stop, head on towards Brockenhurst. One of the largest villages in the New Forest, Brockenhurst retains its old world charm in spades. Here you will find more shops, pubs and cafes but most importantly is your gateway for exploring the open heathland and woodland charms of the Forest itself.
It's here we suggest you set up camp for the night - there are many delightful campsites in this area but we particularly recommend Hollands Wood campsite. Described by David Bellamy as one of his 'Paradise Parks' and set amongst 22 hectares of beautiful oak woodland, it's the ideal spot to immerse yourself in the natural landscape. Sit back and enjoy a well-earned beer surrounded by the most stunning woodland you could imagine. Your holiday has officially started!
After the obligatory camping staple - the bacon sarnie (you did remember the ketchup, right?!) take some time to explore the charms surrounding your wonderful campsite. Take off by bike or foot and enjoy some of the 143 miles of track and path that weave though the glorious woodlands.
Alternatively, you are less than 20 minutes away from historic Beaulieu, with its famous Motor Museum, Victorian gothic styled house, gardens and medieval Abbey. Nearby Bucklers Hard is a charming spot for a waterfront lunch next to the Beaulieu River and well deserving of a visit. Also worth a mention are the beautiful Exbury Gardens with its exquisite gardens, steam railway, tea rooms and play area.
If you've stayed close to Hollands Wood (and who could blame you?) grab yourself elevenses or lunch (exploring all this countryside is thirsty work!) at the beautiful picnic site at Balmer Lawn, next to the Lymington River before heading off towards the charming cobbled streets of Lymington.
This colourful, coastal town is an ancient Seaport and boasts a range of interesting shops and charming cafes. Head down to the Quay to watch the boats come and go, or perhaps take a boat trip yourself around the Solent or even to the Isle of Wight. If you find yourself here on a Saturday, you'll also enjoy the hustle and bustle of its traditional street market selling everything from local foods to craft.
There are some lovely overnight spots surrounding Lymington, but we also suggest continuing the coastal theme by heading to your next camping site - Lytton Lawn Touring Park at Milford on Sea. Set in 8 acres of pretty parkland, this family-friendly park has the most spectacular views out to sea, boasts some handy facilities such as a shop and play areas as well as being well situated to explore the nearby Milford-on-Sea - a pretty village with beautiful beaches. Another great option not too far away is Holmsley Campsite in Christchurch. Pet Friendly and surrounded by ancient trees on all sides, pitches can be found nestled amongst the trees in their very own secluded areas.
We hope you're enjoying the admiring looks and comments by fellow VW enthusiasts wherever you go - everybody loves a VW Campervan ! Don't forget to keep taking pictures of you and your campervan as your adventure unfolds - we'd love to see them and put them in our gallery on the website for all to enjoy.
When you're ready to leave this lovely spot, it's time to leave the coast and head north - onto the A338 towards Fordingbridge. A detour at this point to the lovely Burley however is well-worth the effort. Oozing with old world charm, with ponies roaming freely around the pretty thatched cottages and quaint tea rooms, Burley remains untouched by time and makes for a relaxing spot for a cuppa.
Back on the A338, you'll pass through Ringwood, - a market town worth a stop for provisions. For some family fun head out to Moors Valley country park for great walks and a Go Ape challenge. A bit further North, and there is also much excitement to be found for the whole family at the New Forest Water Park which boasts, amongst other excitements, the UK's first outdoor inflatable Aqua Park. If that's all a bit too adventurous (and wet!) sounding why not trundle to the nearby Ringwood Brewery for a tour and cheeky tipple instead!!
When you get to Fordingbridge, park up and take a leisurely stroll across it's famous medieval Great Bridge that spans the Avon in seven stone arched splendour to Riverside Park – a perfect picnic spot to enjoy the pretty riverside scenery.
Nearby, there are a number of great campsites to finish your mini-break in style. One is the Red Shoot Camping Park is situated in nearby Linwood, nr Ringwood, and is a lovely children and pet-friendly site and worth a special mention for being situated next door to a rather good pub and Micro-brewery - rather handy if the weather isn't conducive to al fresco eating!
There are quite a few family favourites in this area that deserve a mention, and our whole day outs in their own right. Paulton's Park is situated in Ower is a popular theme park with something for the whole family – from Peppa Pig world for the younger members of the family to newly opened 'Lost Kingdom' Dinosaur land.
Longdown Activity Farm is also a popular family choice where you get the change to bottle-feed the kid goats, calves, feed the ducks and have cuddles with baby rabbits and chicks.
All good things must come to an end and as your Campervan needs to returned between 10.00 to 11.00am, there’s really just enough time for a good breakfast and gentle amble back to Southampton (via the A31 & M27 is usually the shortest) before saying a sad farewell to your VW friend.
We hope you have enjoyed your New Forest adventure. We’d love it if you could share your experience and photos with us, and hope to see you again very soon.